The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living is a 2nd edition of the 2017 book.
Dr Russ Harris is an Australian GP who noticed the psychological impact of modern lifestyles on everything in our systems. In response he looked at the ‘I’m-not-good-enough’ complex and introduced the concept of Acceptance Commitment Therapy or ACT and has written about this work in a culminated work which is The Happiness Trap.
Backed by years of scientific research, Harris begins by acknowledging some long held beliefs around happiness such as happiness is the natural state for human beings, that happiness means feeling good, and if you’re not happy you are defective. He points at endless examples of these perpetuated in modern society from advertising to the dreaded social media platforms. In addition, he looks at the immense rise of pharmaceutical intervention on society - particularly young people - as we struggle to come to terms with not living up to the image of a happy life that is so ubiquitously searched for.
The concept that better equals more really solidifies this paradigm and he links this back to the prehistoric era when cavemen required certain psychological responses to certain situations, such as being attacked by a predator, or fitting in with a small community in order to survive. These responses still sit within us, but with the endless pressure not from sabre tooth tigers, but of technology. Our never ending to-do list brings with it emotional responses of tension and anxiety and ‘never enough-ness’.
To counter this, Harris offers a whole range of exercises to respond to these stimuli and react to them accordingly. The ACT system has an almost immediate impact on life and creates a framework for the reader to consider when faced with feelings of dissatisfaction and the lure of constant comparison.
Happiness, according to the author, is defined as a rich, full and meaningful life with the full range of human emotions felt to varying degrees. From this standpoint there is a real opportunity to embrace concepts discussed by Harris, shut out some of the noise from advertisers and social media, and focus on the aspects of our existence that bring real human emotions, both positive and negative, that create the basis of happiness.
Dr Russ Harris also has a series of YouTube clips that complement the book’s teachings. They are well worth checking out.
Reviewer: Chris Reed